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Alex Normanton Chats Music Strategy and His Favourite Tunes and Ad Campaigns


MassiveMusic's new EU Creative Director of Music & Brands reveals the stuff he loves the most in music and advertising and more

Alex Normanton Chats Music Strategy and His Favourite Tunes and Ad Campaigns

MassiveMusic has welcomed new EU Creative Director of Music & Brands Alex Normanton with an informative personal Q&A about his favourite things in advertising, music and more to help us all to learn what makes his musical mind tick. Read below to discover what Alex's thinks about music strategy, his favourite artists and what he would say to Barack Obama if he had the chance. 

From humble beginnings at Saatchi & Saatchi to his own design company – Alex Normanton is now the brand new EU Creative Director of Music and Brands at MassiveMusic. During his career Alex has been fortunate to pick up numerous industry accolades including Graphis, D&AD, Clio Awards, Campaign, Cannes Lions, Creative Circle and The One Show, just to name a few. A creative thinker applying his ninja skills to all things audible. Will he also apply them to answer our million dollar questions? Let's find out. But first, coffee.


Q> Congrats, Alex. You’re officially the latest addition to the MassiveMusic’s crayon box. Which colour are you?

AN> Well, if crayons could ever be made into Pantone colours, mine would be Pantone 021 (that’s bright orange for you non-designers). Ironically, orange is the national colour of the Netherlands and coincidentally the primary brand colour for MassiveMusic – so a perfect fit

Q> Any anecdote about your very first interview with us?

AN> I was flying in from London to Amsterdam to present myself, a project I was passionate about and a live brief to test my strategic thinking. I enter the boardroom with all the head honchos. I had a couple of film clips embedded within my keynote, so I decided to open iTunes to test the Massive bad-ass speaker system. To my horror, it brought up my wife’s and daughter’s eclectic music tastes. Not a great sonic first impression: Rick Astley’s ‘Body & Soul’ album and the movie soundtrack from ‘Sing’ – not my go-to albums of choice (sorry Sue and Macy).


Q> If you had to pick a recent campaign that made you smile and moved you to tears at the same time, what would it be?

AN> A game-changing spot for Volvo XC60 in 2017.

It’s not about those cool, long, sweeping drone shots or spinning wheels in slow-motion anymore. Car advertising has moved on so much and it's tapping into the hearts and minds of their consumers much more effectively. Brands are talking a lot about stories, but this spot is using stories in an idea-driven way that captures emotions and the product benefits perfectly.

An emotive story that sweeps through a woman’s entire lifetime in just three minutes. It talks about the importance of what doesn’t happen in one’s life so that everything else can happen.

As a parent, I completely identify with this narrative – those precious everyday conversations that my daughter shares. I want to protect her and be there for those hopes and dreams to become a reality. Incredibly powerful, clever and spot on for the product.

Q> And your favourite from MassiveMusic?

AN> It has to be the ‘War Child - Batman’ for me.

The creative is so different for the charity sector (award-winning in fact) and the twist at the end gets me every time. It’s humanistic and it manages to merge fantasy with harsh reality – both visually and musically. The track ‘You’re My Best Friend’ by Queen just stirs up something fresh in this context, plus the transition from track to SFX is really poignant and harrowing.

Q> Why do brands need to include music in their strategy nowadays? And why, in your opinion, are some of them still reluctant?

AN> Because, if brands don’t evolve they are missing a crucial component of brand communication: sound. Brands should be communicating in a multisensory way, just in the same way that they need to be multidisciplinary. This is why experiential activity has increased in the last few years. 

For far too long, agencies, as well as brands, have been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the visual and verbal. We need to start thinking about the audible and how it can aid, draw alongside and maintain conversations. If brands are wanting to reconnect with their consumers and operate in the emotional, sound has the ability to do this, it bridges the gap. 

Maybe the reluctance comes from a lack of understanding, budget allocation or even time. MassiveMusic understands the importance of music for brands and we are keen to break down those barriers through education, awareness and creating great sounding work.

Q> Back in the days: when you were a student, you chose graphic design among all disciplines. How come?

AN> For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At school, I remember filling out a questionnaire which generated a list of ‘suitable’ career options. My results came back with Architect and Graphic Designer. I ruled out Architect as I knew this was a long and arduous process. I had preconceived ideas about what a graphic designer was – but didn’t actually know what they did. 

It was my Mum who encouraged me to pursue this avenue (thanks, Mum) as well as a whole host of encouraging individuals throughout my formative years. 

I studied graphic design in 6th form, college and university (8 years in total) because I fell in love with it. Ironically, this ended up being one more year of study than architecture. However, if I hadn’t studied graphic design, I would have chosen jazz piano.

Q> How would you describe music to someone who’s deaf?

AN> Music is all about powerful emotions and something that is felt. It’s intrinsically linked to the vibrations that exist all around us. Music is something that you have to feel. The vibrations and frequencies that pulsate through a crowd at a live performance is probably the best forum for this. 

There is an increasing number of ‘music interpreters’ that are translating silence into a tangible experience, visually and physically. A powerful and an awesome approach for the deaf community at live music events. It would be interesting to see if technology combined with the same thinking could help aid the experience for the deaf – especially within their home environment.

Q> What’s your favourite 90s’ jam and why?

AN> Well, there would definitely be a few flavours here and it would definitely be played on a TDK Mix Tape.

From Counting Crows to Alanis Morissette, Air, Eagle-Eye Cherry, REM, Cranberries, Indigo Girls, Cardigans, a touch of Oasis and a sprinkling of U2.

However, I pretty much played Counting Crows – ‘August and Everything After’ on auto-reverse throughout the nineties. I love the live feel of this record: it feels like you are right there in the studio witnessing a great live performance. It’s got realism to it, some idealistic thinking and romance. It embodies a positive attitude of multiple possibilities.

Q> You said you’re a coffee lover but it has to be served right. What’s the best coffee place in London? And did you already find a special one in Amsterdam?

AN> Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden would be my happy place. However, Nude Espresso café on the edge of Brick Lane is rather good too. Over to you guys for recommendations in Amsterdam. I’ll happily cycle the length and breadth of the city to find that perfect crema.

Q> If you could have a cup of coffee with someone you admire, who would you pick and what would you ask?

AN> Barack Obama. I would ask him: “If you could return to your former role as U.S. President for one day, what would you change?”

Q> What was the last song you listened to and why did you choose to listen to it?

AN> George Michael – ‘They Won’t Go When I Go’ from the remastered album ‘Listen Without Prejudice’. This track was originally written by Stevie Wonder and many consider this track to be a dark consequence of Stevie's 1973 car accident.

I love the tenderness and power of George’s vocal performance: it’s incredibly moving. Musical theorists have commented that “the harmonic progression is very similar to Chopin's Etude Opus 10 #4, measures 5 and 6, although at a much slower pace.” 

I regret that I didn’t properly connect with all his music until I was introduced to the album ‘Older’. I do however have fond memories of Wham! tracks being played by my older sister whilst dancing around her bedroom singing into her hairbrush.

Q> What’s that one line in a song that feels like it was written for you?

AN> “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop” from ‘Every tear is a Waterfall’ by Coldplay. It denotes there is more to come, I’m not done yet. We are all on a journey.

Q> If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?

AN> ‘The creative mind of the ginger feet of flames and understanding his dolce tones’. That's a great title. Ok, teach us something we don’t know in the next five minutes. Hmm, let's see. Once I chopped my finger off with a table-top saw and spent 14 hours in theatre to reattach it.  I used to be an avid collector of designer chairs until we decided to move to Amsterdam. I’m now in the process of decluttering our house, ready for the big move. Finally completed my Mexico ‘86 Sticker Album (thanks, eBay), not that I’m massively into football - this just ticks my OCD box.

Q> Any question I should have asked but did not?

AN> “What’s your favourite song to dance to?”, to which I would have replied ‘Disco Inferno’ by The Trammps. The dance floor is definitely my gym.

Read the original article on the MassiveMusic site.

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Genres: Music & Sound Design, People, Storytelling

MassiveMusic Amsterdam, Tue, 27 Feb 2018 14:50:35 GMT